PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has announced a ban on gatherings and events of more than 250 people in three different Washington state counties–which includes virtually the entire Seattle metro area–to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

Inslee held a press conference Wednesday outlining the ban involving King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, home to about four million people. He said the prohibition is highly likely to be extended “beyond March” and may grow to include more counties throughout the state.

“This is not just your ordinary flu,” Inslee said. “This demands a response consistent with the nature of the threat.”

Early Wednesday afternoon, Seattle Public Schools announced they would close for 14 days.

The ban covers gatherings for social, recreational, spiritual and other matters, according to Inslee. This would include Seattle Mariners baseball and Seattle Sounders soccer games.

Closer to home, St. Joseph Catholic Church in Vancouver canceled Wednesday night’s parish mission, citing new directives from Archbishop Etienne regarding large parish gatherings. All public Mass celebrations were also suspended.

The proclamation requires “social distancing,” at smaller gatherings.

In King County specifically, gatherings smaller than 250 people have been banned as well unless there is proof that safeguards are made to protect health, according to Executive Dow Constantine.

“This is an unprecedented public health situation and we can’t wait until we’re in the middle of it to slow it down,” Inslee said. “We’ve got to get ahead of the curve. One main defense is to reduce the interaction of people in our lives.”

Inslee said he has been in constant contact with multiple district superintendents to create a comprehensive plan regarding closures and services for families who need child care.

Washington has at least 24 COVID-19 deaths and more than 260 confirmed cases.

Full KOIN 6 News coronavirus coverage